A couple of guys in my neighborhood...
…needed ID. I know both of these guys from Hard Times Supper and they know each other well. I think on the outside one might never guess that we all share a community. But here we are at the DMV, because two of us need replacement driver’s licences for ones that have gone missing and the other has the car to get us there.
One of us is 59, homeless for 4 years, on the autism spectrum, and absolutely brilliant about theoretical physics. He always wears a hat, is extremely polite, and tells wonderful stories about his dad navigating big ships and his mom, who he took care of for years between her stroke and her death…which is when he became homeless.
Another of us is 38, housed, has two little kids, and made himself coffee in a kitchen at dawn. And, while he is dressed in the same clothes as yesterday, he took a shower both last night and this morning. He likes to listen to stories and is increasingly patient about waiting rooms.
And the other of us is a week away from 25, carries a borrowed banjo, and is very tapped into extra-sensory communication. He tells good jokes and likes to talk, sometimes nervously, about his understandings of the world and universe.
We are all figuring it out and today we are figuring out how to replace one’s Driver’s License. Turns out what it takes is 26$ and a willingness to sit at the DMV for a couple of hours. Simple, right? Until you realize what’s behind the scenes…59 year old gets nervous about the 26$, “I don’t have that kind of cash. I could go canning tonight and maybe if it’s good, we could go tomorrow?” 24 year old wonders if he needs his birth certificate, proof of address, some other ID in order to get his ID.
“I can pay for each of your IDs today. Don’t worry about it.” “Let’s find out what we need. If we have to come back tomorrow we can.” I tell my friends. Relief is in the exhales.
“Oh man, thank you John. I’m going to pay you back, just wait and see. I can’t believe this, man. I’ve been thinking about getting this back since last winter and I can never get it together.” No problem, buddy.
“Jeez, John. I didn’t know you liked waiting rooms so much. I would have no motivation or ability to be here without you.” No problem, buddy.
We get antsy after an hour and walk up the block for a cup of coffee. We tell jokes, stories, moments of absurdity and sip coffee on the way back. The sun is higher at 11:15 so we sit in the parking lot. One smokes a cigarette. The other wonders about the clouds and their direction.
After 2 hours, we are up…24 year old goes up first. “Sir, you need a proof of address to change the address.” I see my friend about to blow. You see, he had the ID made recently, he had it sent to Sunnyside Church, but it came sometime between September 15th and now…all mail had been returned and now he needs it reissued to a new address. Proof of address is usually a bill, a document, etc. How does he get that? And quickly? He is frustrated at how much it actually takes to get an ID
“Can I be his proof of address?” I ask the man. “If he’s using your address or staying with you and you have proof of address, we can make that work.” Great! Thanks, buddy. I give the man my ID and 26$ and we’re done. “Accepted” says his paper. He smiles at the word.
I dash over the check on 59 year old. He is pulling papers out of his wallet, looking for more documents for the clerk. “Everything good?” I ask.
My friend looks back at me and says, “Yeah yeah, she’s so nice. She’s helping me so much and it’s going to work!” He is so happy/nervous/excited he is starting to tear up. I pay his 26$ and the same word is stamped on his paper. He smiles too and turns back to find our 24 year old friend. They compare papers and give each other a hug. It’s noon and we’re out. Success. Approved.
The car ride back towards the neighborhood was one of the most joyous I can remember since highschool joy rides or road trips in my 20s. The freedom that came with having a concrete task of life done and complete for each of these guys, transformed their days, maybe their weeks, maybe longer. It was so fun to hang out and felt good to trade a gallon of gas and 52$ to be a part of that level of accomplishment, pride, and joy.
With IDs in hand, the 59 year old, one of the nicest men you could ever want to meet, is now in a 90 day shelter at the new Navigation Center near the Broadway Bridge. He told me, “I think this is what I’m supposed to do next to get better. It’s like it’s all coming together.” as I got him checked in there yesterday.
The 24 year old is busking with his banjo in hopes of saving the cash to get him down to Arizona where friends and family are waiting for him. He wants the sun and the dry as the rain comes and said, “Now I can get out of here. Get clean and clear again. Start some new patterns. Thanks, buddy. I wont forget this”
Who knows what the future holds, except we know none of it is easy. But we all need a little help sometimes and I was so happy to be in a place to help a little. Maybe with enough pebbles added up behind our friends, a new mountain can get built.